Downton Abbey Portrays Reality of Interfaith RelationshipsBy Gerri Miller
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December 3, 2013
Throughout the more than three thousand years of Jewish history, opportunities have presented themselves to our people to share the message of Torah to those who are not Jewish. The Torah records in Genesis that Abraham and Sarah traveled throughout Canaan sharing with interested people the message of the One God. They established for us for all time the responsibility of their descendants to continue that task.
In the twenty-first century an opportunity has presented itself to do just that. Its name is INTERMARRIAGE.
Let it not shock you, that I, a veteran Modern Orthodox rabbi, a graduate of Yeshiva University, writes these words. Now is not the time for us to bury our heads in the sand. Now is not the time for us to bemoan the situation. Now is not the time to sound off against this phenomenon.
Now is the time to recognize that the freedom of religious expression granted to us in these United States has produced a Jewish world in which many who are not Jewish have expressed an interest. An intermarriage represents to my thinking the acceptance of Judaism and its values into the mainstream of America.
Of course I understand the "dangers inherent in this." It is indeed possible that through an intermarriage the Jewish partner will eventually sever ties with his/her long family history. Not to enter into such an intermarriage would "be better"—less dangerous. But the reality of the modern free society in which we live should not be dismissed off hand.
I welcome the opportunity given to me by InterfaithFamily to be totally and fully involved. I welcome the opportunity to meet with all couples exploring intermarriage in order that they be given a solid informative understanding of what Judaism is. I shall not be judgmental but shall be understanding of the concerns and desires of the couple involved. Without question I shall seek to offer my perspectives to the partner who is not Jewish. It is only fair to him/her to be "so educated."
And without question I shall not consider that an intermarriage represents the END OF THE LINE, BUT RATHER THE BEGINNING OF A JOURNEY.
It makes no difference to me whether the wife in this intermarriage is Jewish, in which case technically her children will be considered Jewish. That technicality of halacha might be important to the rabbi of a congregation who is asked to permit a bar or a bat mitzvah ceremony. That technicality of halacha might be important to the mohel who is asked to perform the brit milah.
My interest lies in guaranteeing that this couple have the right and the opportunity to meet and study with an Orthodox rabbi to more fully comprehend what Judaism is all about.
Perhaps some of my colleagues will disagree with my take on this matter. I shall respect their feelings and ask only that they do the same for me. In no way shall I remain anything other than an Orthodox rabbi who has his eyes wide open to the realities of today. And if some of my colleagues wish to join me in this undertaking I will be most grateful.
The lines of communication are there for the taking. Please do not hesitate.